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Stand up for Public Services

Bankers might have protected their bonuses, but it’s a tough time for the rest of us. Janet Wright finds out what the CSP is doing to protect members’ jobs

The CSP doesn’t often call members out onto the streets.

But the society is so concerned about planned spending cuts that it’s supporting a TUC-led national demonstration on 26 March.

Charities, trade unions and hundreds of thousands of individuals are expected on the march through central London. The CSP, which is affiliated to the TUC will be among them, welcoming members to join in under the society’s blue banner.

‘If supported by enough people from the widest possible cross-section of society  young, old, students, working, retired  this demonstration will send a message that only the very bravest (or most foolish) politician will feel able to ignore,’ says Lesley Mercer, director of CSP employment relations and union services.

According to some economists, the cuts are more likely to damage Britain’s economy than to help it.

‘Britain is embarking on a highly risky experiment. Austerity is a gamble Britain can ill afford,’ Nobel Prize-winner Joseph Stiglitz recently told the Guardian.

He warned that austerity in a downturn lowers GDP and increases unemployment, and excessive austerity can have long-lasting effects.

‘The fact that credible alternatives exist makes it even worse,’ says Lesley Mercer.

‘That’s the point of the event on 26 March, to say that there is a different and fairer way of putting the economy back on its feet, and it’s not too late to change tack.’

Although public services are first in the firing line, the effects will spread throughout society, say trade unionists, putting private-sector jobs at risk too.

Jobs at risk

‘It’s hard to think of a single CSP member who will not be affected by the cuts,’ says Lesley Mercer.

‘Members working in the NHS are seeing their terms and conditions of employment hit in a big way, their jobs are at risk and there will be a big knock on effect in the NHS from cuts to local government and welfare benefits.

But whether you are talking about the increases in tax and NI contributions, or the massive hike in tuition fees, or the cuts to child benefits and state pension entitlements for women, these are all measures that will hit ordinary people.’

The poorest 10% of households will be hit 15 times harder by the cuts than the richest 10%, according to the TUC.

What about the argument that the state, like any of us when we’ve run up debts, needs to cut back on spending to balance the books?  

‘This was the mistake that created the great depression of the 1930s, because nations don’t work like households,’ says Alex Mackenzie, chair of the CSP’s industrial relations committee.

‘As the TUC points out, when consumers cut back, they don’t have to worry about the wider impact of their reduced spending. But government cuts depress the economy. That slows the recovery that will deliver the extra tax income that will close the deficit.’

The alternatives, supported by a large coalition of groups including the CSP and charities such as Save the Children and the Salvation Army, would promote sustainable growth and more jobs.

So the economy would gain from the taxes paid by more people in work instead of supporting them on benefits.

One alternative is a ‘Robin Hood tax’ on financial transactions. This would transfer money from the very rich, but  unlike the legendary outlaw of Sherwood Forest  legally, and in very small amounts.

The suggested rates are between 5p and £5 on every £1,000. But as financial transactions (mainly speculative) shift trillions of dollars every day around the world, it would bring in anything up to £20 billion to the UK economy.

‘The decision to cut the deficit in four years and to take £4 out of services for every £1 in tax was a political choice, not an economic necessity,’ says TUC general secretary Brendan Barber.

‘The British people are never that interested in politics, but we do have a deep sense of fairness that goes across traditional party lines.’ fl

What can members do?

  • For more on the national demonstration, local campaigns, and arguments against the cuts and for an alternative
  • Follow twitter@robinhood
  • Spread the word to colleagues, friends and family.
  • This campaign for a fairer alternative to cuts cannot be fought by national organisations alone  a small contribution by many people can make huge difference

‘Why I’m marching’

‘Enough is enough,’ says CSP South-east Coastal regional steward Jim Fahie, whose wife Tracy also works in the health service.

‘As the father of a young family, I’m annoyed at the ever-increasing cost of living and the gradual privatisation of parts of the NHS.

The government seems to be laying the blame  and the clean-up costs  for this financial crisis at the door of the state. That’s affecting every man, woman and child in this country.

It was largely the banking crisis that got us here, so the government should be taxing the banks instead, and regulating their risky behaviour.’


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